This Cocktail Chair, a family heirloom from Bavaria, arrived in my studio workshop (via Erith), at the recommendation of the owner’s partner, a mutual friend who had been following and appreciating my work since we both used to be members of an east London housing co-operative.
Moth-eaten and in need of some love and care, After a fabric and design consultation my client agreed to go with a Herringbone weave from Harlequin, called “Parquet” in colour “Bramble”
Keeping in constant contact with the client during the process of reupholstery was a joy which resulted in some lovely touches, which I feel enhanced the overall new look, including details like the decorative close-nailing in “French Natural” nails and the dark chocolate leather piping detail which gave the chair an air of contemporary though classic elegance.
For any upholsterers and soft furnishers moving their studio to a new site, I feel for you. In my experience the process can be stressful, never-ending and exhausting! My Thanks to Anna F and Rowena Murphy for helping me with some logistics ( and some very heavy lifting!).
Imagine you have barely loaded in the last of your boxes, when an opportunity (not to mention a camera crew) arrives, to not only work with someone you’ve long since admired through social media, a certain Mr Jay Blades, but to do it on national television.
I felt exhausted after the move, but excited to finally work with a leading light in furniture up cycling. Jay was a new presenter on the TV Show Money for Nothing (BBC1 tv). He brought a couple of pieces for me to choose from.
I decided I get to grips with a sorry-looking (but full of character) Mid-20th century modern armchair.
With barely a pair of trestles and some hand tools unpacked, the “rip down” process revealed a piece which had already brought new life of its own: Among the creatures living inside the upholstery were a family of woodlice, and a particularly big green and plump garden Slug , which from the picture above, already made its presence felt by leaving a long , undulating slug trail all over the seat, inside back and outside arms and back.
An enjoyable bit of banter with Jay and myself discussing fabric and design options unfortunately never made it into the final edit for that show. To be honest , after the studio move I was so mentally and physically tired , and the ideas I came up with for re-imagining the chair were in excess of the budget. Sometimes it’s better just to go with the flow too, as Jay supplied the fabrics and knowing the type of work he has produced in the past I had a definite idea of the type of look Jay was after. It was just up to me to put in the graft.
And so too the rip down. Having packed away my mask I had to improvise with “a knotted hanky” made from some scrap calico. I did indeed discover that this chair had plenty of life left inside it… some of it was still moving!!
Making sure no living creatures were harmed I carefully removed each of the woodlice and capturing them in a cup, went out to release them back into the wild (well, not so much wild, as the neighbouring public green/ recreational space across the road from the studio space. When it came to finding a slug , having isolated the chair from the rest of the furniture projects in the studio overnight, by the time I returned to finish off cleaning up the chair our little friend had managed to embed itself in the last bits of filling in the seat base, starved of moisture/ fluids it had dried out completely.
After putting in some hours and with great help from my assistant Rowena Murphy (A big thanks!), the chair came together quite well. Covered in a light grey and Charcoal Wool, accented with baby blue piping in just the areas I thought Jay would appreciate. As a homage to the dead slug the seat base used a limey-green wool (not sure of the source, It felt like Kvadrat’s top quality Davina range)I did pull a few all-nighters to get the last bits ready and the morning of the final shoot/big reveal I felt little “ropey”to say the least, and perhaps a little bit touchy as well, after I got a little miffed for a millisecond there at the way one of the crew spoke to my assistant, who arrived at the studio towards the end of filming, having also put in a shift to help me get this ready ). In the end it was a job I thought reasonably well done and my big thanks to Rowena , Anna F and the irrepressible Jay Blades and the crew for their enthusiasm. Unfortunately the chair did not sell within the filming schedule so I hope it eventually finds a great home.
There was a time earlier this year when I found myself feeling blocked and overwhelmed with the amount of projects I had taken on and I needed some help and business advice on how to manage the multiple projects I had taken on .
I sought help and advice through The AMUSF (Association of Master Upholsterers & Soft Furnishers) and I also looked at the Opportunity website, which linked me up to a Business counsellor, Dr Wayne Wright. and I took on a few assistants who helped me get my workload down to more manageable levels while at the same time helping me to increase my productivity.
Wayne entered my studio and immediately went to work setting me up with project management systems and helped me streamline my production of estimates and invoices. As cashflow was really tight in return for his counselling and advice I offered to restore a chair for him in return for his help.
It took little while as I had to get through a number of outstanding projects since the move to a new studio space, and it took a while to confirm a suitable fabric with my client, However with the fantastic help of Rowena Murphy, a recent graduate from Shoreditch Design Rooms and Anna F, we managed to get through a number of upholstery projects as well as turn out this fully restored piece just in time for Xmas eve, now recovered in a smart woven wool from Eleanor Pritchard Studio (many thanks for taking my late order with a lightening quick turnaround!)
My thanks and congratulations for superb attention to detail (particularly the wood finishing) by Rowena.
I think my client was happy as he gave me a lovely bottle of Prosecco which , at the end of a particularly busy month (and a phenomenal year) ,which was enjoyed in timely fashion!
In November 2015 this reproduction nursing chair arrived at my studio in a hopeless state: A pet-scratched, threadbare cover basically keeping the frame in some sort of shape, despite having nearly every single dowel joint snapped. Completely eroded foams . A battered sheet of fibreboard formed what was left of the seat.
To save this piece I had to completely remove and junk all the old covers and fillings (as well as the fibreboard seat)and dismantle and clean what was left of the frame before reassembly using new dowells, gluing and screwing the frame back into shape.
After reconstructing the frame I decided to upgrade the seat from the rubbish fibreboard and foam originally fitted, applying lashed serpentine springs and hessian to form the base suspension before fitting a first stuffing layer of rubberised hair and a second layer of the appropriate grade foam . for the back I used elasticated webbing and applied the same fillings as the seat.
Finally making sure the final top cover, a deep rich tangerine velvet from Kobe’s “Real” range, was made compliant through the use of a flame retardant barrier cloth bonded to the cover before fitting and hand- stitching to the frame.
I decided not to go with the original buttoning pattern as my customer’s wanted to use a different colour for the velvet button details. (perhaps, like the original , if the buttons were made using the same colour as the fabric then I would of gone with the same buttoning formation). Finally cleaning/polishing up the legs with a little beeswax.
This tangerine dream did much to brighten its owners faces when it was unveiled at my studio upon collection.
Many thanks to Myfanwy Taylor and Joanna Maeva for their custom x
Being Self-employed and spending the majority of my time working by myself, trips away from the workbench to see what the best of the rest are up to, and especially to trade shows like this feel like a mini-holiday. Tent London was “Just down the road” at the Truman Brewery in Brick Lane. This year’s show felt fantastic. It was wonderful to see Flock’s first appearance at the event. Congratulations on their show-stopping Cocktail chair pieces (This time created by Florrie & Bill- great work folks!)
Amongst all the great design talent on show the show that really got me all hot under the collar (It was baking hot in there!) was the Second Sitters stand which was literally like being in
Upholstery workshop-cum-laboratory where Hannah Stanton & Jude Dennis of Second Sitters presented the”20 Centimes Chair”,
which became an opportunity for visitors to get involved in a very special ongoing upholstery project…
I couldn’t help but leave a few written thoughts which by now I hope are secretly and securely stuffed (along with possibly hundreds of other contributions) into
Their memory chair .
Chatting to Hannah & Jude about the technical aspects of some of their wonderful furniture/art pieces was thoroughly inspirational!
In December/January this year I was contacted by a Paul Firbank, AKA The Rag & Bone Man, to come up with a technical solution to a chair he had designed and built. Paul is a wizard transforming scrap metal into desirable objects, lighting and furniture (check out some of his amazing work in this great video below)
At his invitation to site, I opened a door (to what I thought was a disused retail space nearby Wembley Stadium) and was totally stunned (and excited)by what I saw: Paul and his team had been breaking up an Airbus 320 commercial airliner (minus its engines and landing gear). Working day & night transforming as much of the aircraft as they could into beautiful furniture , desirable household items and lighting .
After picking up my jaw up off the ground, Paul showed me around the space, explaining the reason why he took on such a massive project: As part of a programme by Kevin McCloud for Channel 4, where Kevin Illustrates how to combat the challenge of growing industrial waste in our environment through upcycling & recycling in a 90-minute TV special,through challenging three designers (one of which being Paul )to turn an entire Airbus A320 into hundreds of amazing new products in a giant ‘Up-cycling’ experiment. Their task is to find new uses for as much of the plane as possible within the given timeframe, leaving only an empty hangar behind them. The designers to turn the aircraft into loads of amazing new products, the best of the bespoke items would then be auctioned off, with the proceeds (hopefully exceeding the purchase price for the aircraft )going to childrens cancer charity The NCCA.
After showing me around the site Paul presented the chair he wanted help with. His work is incredible! The armrests came from the airplane fuselages structural beams. Paul used the suspension fashioned from the webbing used to carry cargo/luggage.
One of my challenges involved reshaping the webbing: Each join on the cargo netting was originally glued as well as stitched together and had to be taken apart without compromising its tensile strength and load-carrying capacity.
The single seat itself was created fusing two of the existing passenger seats. Refurbishing & modifying them so the user can enjoy a relaxed and supported position with a good lower back support. Adjusters were stitched into the seat’s suspension for users to adjust the suspension where required.
From the various fabrics discussed and presented to Paul, a smart,strong and complimentary coloured tweed from Bute Fabrics in Scotland was chosen. As I worked with the fabric I imagined and applied a stitched, quilted pattern
that I thought would respect the original design lines of the passenger seats.
Overall, it felt a great privilege to be involved in such an exciting innovative project which steps up to illustrate to the extreme the growing problem of industrial waste which strikes to the heart
of a real social, environmental and economic concern.
My sincere and deep thanks go out to Anna Frisch & Ana De Matos for their advice & support.
Aine Sheehan for her assistance in realising this chairs prototype upholstery
& Joanna Williams & Jennifer Wingfield @ Flock for their support
Bute Fabrics for their swift response and great service
and mostly to Paul & Lizzie for giving me the opportunity.
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